LONDON (AP) — English soccer's governing body launched a review Sunday into an escalating child sex-abuse scandal to discover what professional clubs knew about crimes being committed by coaches and what action should have been taken at the time.
No such investigation was launched by The Football Association after Barry Bennell, a coach at the center of the scandal who was linked to Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, was first convicted in the 1990s in both the United States and England for molesting players.
It has taken former victims of Bennell and other coaches to waive their anonymity over the last two weeks to bring a fresh light on abuses they suffered while trying to break into professional soccer. The players' union said more than 20 players had approached them with allegations of abuse.
A 24-hour hotline supported by the FA was set up last week and has since received dozens of calls.
"With the helpline it's a matter whether they wish to come out publicly or remain anonymous," Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor told Sky News television. "This is centering for the moment on clubs Crewe Alexandra, Blackpool, Manchester City, Stoke, Leeds United and then, in the northeast Newcastle United. It would be naive to think there won't be clubs as well in all areas."
Four police forces across England, including in London, have opened investigations after being contacted about Bennell and other unnamed individuals.
"At this time, with acknowledgement that a wide-ranging inquiry may be required in time, we are working closely with the police to support their lead investigations and must ensure we do not do anything to interfere with or jeopardize the criminal process," the FA said.
Lawyer Kate Gallafent, who has experience working on child protection issues in sports, has been brought in by the FA to look into the abuse allegations and "make recommendations in order to seek to ensure these situations can never be repeated."
"The internal review will look into what information the FA was aware of at the relevant times around the issues that have been raised in the press, what clubs were aware of, and what action was or should have been taken," the FA added in a statement.